jennypenny wrote:Beyond the college issue, I'd help my kids if they really needed it. I'm not going to enable them if they prove they can't handle money, but I'll always provide them food, shelter, and health care.
I wasn't sure whether to post in this thread, in the "buy your kids a debt-free house" one, or not at all. Our story is very different from most here, so it may not be useful. It's also long and possibly not relevant.
DH's son was 15 when we moved in together. He was always going to be different (fetal alcohol syndrome, absentee Native American parent, learning disabilities, socially isolated). Moving him off-grid into the woods at that age only made it worse. By the time he (barely) graduated from high school, he had already dropped out once, struggled with addiction, been involved in a deadly motorcycle accident, attempted suicide, and cycled in and out of treatment and psychiatric care. He joined the military but was kicked out after two years. Then began a series of alcohol-fueled incidents that always ended up in his calling us from jail or some court-mandated treatment center. One call was from the hospital because he had slammed a door on his finger in a drunken rage and permanently chopped part of it off.
DH and I had no idea how to help him. College was never an option. We finally emotionally washed our hands and moved away. DS knew how to reach us by mail or 6-hour drive, but we didn't have a phone. Quite honestly, it was a relief.
When we moved back to the Seattle area 10 years later, DS was living in a nearby town. He had spent part of the intervening years in a destructive marriage, one year in jail, and another year living under a bridge in Seattle. During his homeless time, he had been beaten in the head by police and lost some of his mental capacity. He was working steadily at a menial job, still drinking, but staying largely out of trouble. We saw him once a week while trying to keep an emotional distance for our own mental health.
About 3 years ago, DS called us in a panic. He'd been picked up for DUI, and though his blood alcohol was well below the legal limit, he failed the field sobriety test. The local police considered him undesirable anyway, so they arrested him. He was terrified of losing his job and ending up in jail, and he was also being kicked out of the trailer court where he lived. He was almost 50 years old at this point, and our first instinct was to move away again.
Instead, we engaged an attorney who kept DS out of jail. We then bought him a debt-free house. I know this sounds like the worst sort of enabling or rewarding bad behavior, but our conditions were:
1. He repaid the attorney fees (he did).
2. He quit drinking and tried to maintain sobriety (he did for a short while).
3. He attended outpatient treatment and AA (he did; both were mandated by the court).
4. He would never ever ever drive again after drinking (I believe that he has stuck to this).
5. He began antidepressant medication to deal with his rage outbursts (still on it, and it's made a huge difference).**
6. He put $800/month into a separate checking account with us as co-signers and paid all house expenses/utilities from it (he did).
7. He contribute to his work 401(k), matched by us into an IRA (he did while he had that job, and we continue to contribute to an IRA).
8. He kept all of his receipts and went over monthly expenditures with me (we did this for a year and then decided the point had been made).
(**DS lapsed with the anti-depressants about 2 years ago and blew up in anger at his decent-paying job with benefits. He returned to the medication, but it was too late with that employer. He's had sporadic, low-paying jobs since.)
We opened another credit card and made DS a joint account-holder on it so he could build credit -- paying off the balance monthly, of course. I monitor this (and his bank account) online, but he has absolutely no tendency to use credit unwisely and is generally a frugal shopper. We also bought him a computer and taught him how to use it on a basic level. We keep him on our cell family plan and charge him a share.
DS isn't perfect, but then neither are we. He doesn't have DH's incredible work ethic, so he maintains his yard and house but makes no improvements. He has difficulty finding and keeping employment given his record and lack of education or complex computer skills, and the physical labor jobs that are available have damaged his back. He has difficulty learning new things. He tries, though. He has a little dog he loves, and he's profoundly grateful to have a home that's his and won't be taken away. He stays out of trouble; not even a traffic ticket. He has a little money in the bank, but I'm well aware that we (or probably I, since DH is 21 years older) will need to help him financially when he can no longer work. We're prepared for that.
We've kept the house in our name because we don't want DS to lose it somehow. I think he's progressed enough to have it, but DH has an abundance of caution. DS will get the house in our wills, plus income from a charitable trust.
The easy advice here would be to invest in your offspring's viability when they're young so you don't have to when they're old. Life isn't so neat, though, and I truly don't know what we could have done earlier (except not to move into the woods; that's a huge one). My point? There's no one right answer. You do what you can when the time is right. Having said that: if your kids show the slightest aptitude for college, enable them. If not, try trade school and apprenticeship. The jobs available without one or the other are shrinking, and too many of those are suitable only for the young.